100 proven employee reward ideas
There are countless employee reward ideas out there if you do some digging. Some of them are highly effective… whereas others are a little disappointing, to say the least.
So we’ve decided to investigate the hundreds of ideas floating out there on the internet – as well as recall some of our own. And we’ve compiled them into what we believe is a list of 100 proven employee reward ideas.
We say proven because each idea is either inspired by academic evidence, or else it’s something we have direct experience with ourselves. But remember that what works for one group of people may fall flat on its face with another. The key to rewarding employees effectively is first to truly understand them. Only then will you know how to incentivise them most effectively.
So, without further ado, let’s dive in and discover 100 proven employee reward ideas that will help you build organizational culture and improve employee satisfaction.
Want to skip ahead? Take a look at the employee reward ideas most relevant to your organization using these links:
Ready to dive in from the top? Then let’s get started:
Thank you phone call
We are quick to underestimate the power of a simple thanks. Yet countless studies have revealed how powerful gratitude can really be! From raising a person’s feelings of self-worth, to encouraging positive behaviors in the workplace, the benefits are endless. Which means that one of the most effective employee rewards, is also one of the most simple – why don’t you pick up the phone and call each employee, for no other reason than giving them a genuine, heartfelt and personal message of appreciation?
Spotlight in newsletter
We talked already about the positive psychological effects of appreciation. What better way to show appreciation for somebody, than by rewarding them with their own spotlight in your company newsletter! Whether it’s an internal round-robin, or a popular blog that gets mailed out to your entire subscriber list, writing up a shout out for an employee who deserves rewarding is a nice way to show how proud you are of their contributions.
Shadow somebody (anybody) for the day
Have you ever watched somebody working and thought “I wonder it would be like to have their job?” Chances are, your employees have wondered the same thing too – and why not give them a taste of what other jobs are like? Letting employees shadow another person for a day is not only a great way to reward them, by letting them experience something out of the norm, but it’s a great way to help them expand their horizons, and possibly even find a new career! Did you know that employees are far less likely to quit if they can find exciting new opportunities within the same company?
Personal note from CEO
Research by Quantum Workplace says that employees who receive praise for their contributions will feel ownership and pride, and will work just as hard on their next project. And not only does sincere recognition boost performance, but it also connects employees with the organization, and reduces the chance they’ll quit. For this reason, we think a great way to reward employees is to give them a personal note of appreciation from the CEO of the company. Even if you’re running a 2,000-person organization, this can still be achievable. The note doesn’t have to be an essay – it just has to be sincere.
Pay for professional courses
Rewarding employees with an investment in their professional development is a great thing to do. If you can fund it, let employees find courses they’re interested in and then foot the bill. You’ll be creating a workforce of appreciative people who are constantly improving themselves, and more likely to reward you with their loyalty.
If funding full courses seems a little intimidating – or if your employees don’t have the time to invest – then you could consider sending people to specialist seminars run by subject matter experts in the topics they’re most interested in. While seminars don’t give people a professional qualification, you can often learn more in a 90-minute lecture with a specialist, than you can learn in a full day in the classroom!
If you have employees who are serious about furthering their professional reputation, and who really want to work towards continuous improvement, then sponsoring their admission fee into a professional organization or industry body is a great way to support and reward them. For example, they may wish to become a chartered professional, but they cannot afford the membership fee to join the chartered institute for their profession. Helping employees gain access to these sorts of organizations will also reward your business with more highly skilled people, and a better reputation.
Conferences are another great way to reward employees with the gift of knowledge. Like seminars, there’s plenty of chance to learn from the experts. There’s also the excitement of a trip away from home or the office, perhaps a night in a hotel, and the opportunity to network with hundreds of kindred spirits with similar skills and interests.
Professional development books
Not everybody needs guided tuition in order to master their calling in life. One great and easy way to reward employees through supporting their professional development, is to simply buy them the books they want or need to read about their specialist subject. Do a little bit of research about the kinds of professional textbooks and educational resources that might be most helpful to your team, and get ordering. Don’t forget to buy books about leadership and communications, for those people who are responsible for others, and who may want to improve their people skills!
Dinner with somebody in the company
Within big companies, it can be difficult to really meet and get to know different people. There’s no shortage of people, but they tend to form cliques and stick to their own social circles. So why not reward employees with a great networking opportunity and some great food all at once, by arranging dinner appointments between different groups of people? The trick here is to keep things fun and social, so that it doesn’t turn into just another awkward introduction meeting.
Have you ever had that feeling where you have a task that you’re dreading so much, you’re actually considering calling in sick? The sense of relief we feel when a task we’re dreading is taken on by somebody else is hard to describe. Which is why giving employees the ability to delegate a single task or project, at any time, to any person, and for any reason, has the potential to be one of the most prestigious rewards on this entire list! However, this sort of reward should be used with extreme caution. You ought to assess the maturity levels of your team before unleashing this beast on them, as it has the potential to lead to arguments, dissent, or even important projects being attempted by non-qualified individuals.
If you’ve never organized a hackathon, then you haven’t lived. Hackathons are one of the most fun, exciting and productive ways to reward your employees – especially if you include a whole load of pizza and, if the situation allows for it, beer. Hackathons can last any length of time, from 4 hours, to a full week! And normally, they’ll have a theme or a goal – for example, you might run a hackathon where the aim is to build a communication system. The key to running a great hackathon is to let people split up into teams, and have a bit of light competition – complete with prizes and awards at the end. Oh, and remember that the idea of a hackathon isn’t to create a polished product. It’s literally to “hack” a problem, and explore a bunch of proof of concepts. Let creativity reign, and don’t worry about cutting corners!
Sponsor your employees’ content
Do you have people in your team who are relatively opinionated in their professional field? Do they love to share their knowledge and ideas with others, such as by posting blogs, or writing articles on LinkedIn or other social media websites? If so, then help them get their message hear, by sponsoring their content! You could pay to have it viewed by more people across their chosen publication platform, e.g. LinkedIn. Or you could even consider paying for an editorial in a bigger and more prestigious publication such as Forbes!
Financial advisor session
In the UK, 39% of adults do not feel confident managing their money. Financial wellbeing is a serious issue that is impacting the happiness and health of many people. So why not reward employees by giving them a free session with a financial advisor? The issues each person struggles with financially will likely be different from one to the other. But helping employees achieve financial health, and helping them get on top of their problem debts, will increase happiness and productivity in the workplace – and bringing a skilled financial advisor on board could be your ticket to achieving this.
Lunch and learn sessions
Knowledge, skills and information… these things shouldn’t be proprietary! Chances are, many of your employees love to learn new skills – and many of your employees have skills they can teach! Lunch and learn sessions are a great way to share this knowledge across different silos within your organization. You simply need to encourage willing people to spend 30 minutes on a focused, well-defined learning session, and then make it freely available to anybody who wants to join in and learning something new. This could be along the lines of “how to send out a newsletter” or “how to use the new CRM system” or “how to write a basic line of code”.
Framed customer feedback
The evidence for showing employees appreciation is overwhelming. So the next time they get an awesome piece of customer feedback, don’t let it rot in your catch-all mailbox – get it framed and on display! You should be proud of employees who manage to delight and impress your customers, so don’t be afraid to show it off.
Sometimes, the thing that makes people the happiest is helping other people. So why not reward your employees by making a charitable donation on their behalf? Let them choose the charity, and let them even make the donation in their own name if they like! A 2008 Harvard Business Review study revealed that giving makes us happier – so it’s a win-win for everyone.
If you don’t know what your employees like, then let them pick their own reward by giving them a gift card to spend on anything they like. If you select a service like Amazon, which sells nearly everything in the world you could imagine, then it’s a pretty surefire guarantee that your employee will find the reward they want.
Local coffee club membership
Not everybody is a coffee drinker. But almost everybody is guaranteed to find a drink they like at a decent coffee shop – so why not take advantage of that, and reward your employees with a pre-paid monthly subscription to your local coffee house? Some chains offer this as a standard corporate benefit, whereas many independent coffee shops are more than open to the idea of boosting their business with your regular custom – so find out what’s in your area and give it a go! The great thing about rewarding your employees with a local coffee house membership, is that it helps them to start their daily routine together – and in good spirits.
Rent a special outfit for a special occasion
Why not reward employees by helping them feel like a million dollars when they’re about to go on a big adventure? It might be an important presentation in front of a bunch of clients. Maybe you’re sending them to represent your brand at a tradeshow or conference. Or perhaps they’re just going on a special night out with colleagues! Whatever the occasion, renting employees a sharp and stylish outfit will not only make the recipient feel good, but you’ll be sure they’re representing your brand well, too!
Send a parcel in the post
It’s traditional, but it’s effective. Sending a hand-packed parcel of goodies via the mail is a great way to remind employees how much you appreciate their hard work and dedication – after all, everyone loves getting a special delivery, right? And you can stuff their packages with all the good stuff you know they love. The more personal each parcel feels, the more effective it will be.
Remembering employee birthdays is easy – you just need a calendar with everybody’s birthday on it, and you need to check it every day! If you can manage that much, then you’ll be able to take the next step and send each employee a nice little card on their birthday. Using a service like Moonpig will let you choose from physical cards and flowers, to e-cards and more. And employees will feel like you’ve really made an effort to remember their special day.
Personalized stickers and magnets
A wonderfully simple way to reward your employees is to send them their very own personalised stickers, magnets, or even mugs. Services like Sticker Mule let you easily customise little trinkets like this to your heart’s content – you can add pictures of your employees, their pets, or even group photos from social events. It’s a great way to let them snaz up the communal fridge, their laptop, or even their cupboards at home!
Supportive shoes or insoles
The University of Michigan recommends wearing good, comfortable shoes in order to feel good and prevent injury. Yet so many of us continue to walk around with shoes that are ill-fitted, or fail to support the stress we put our bodies through! Providing supportive shoes or insoles is one of the great employee reward ideas, because as well as helping employees feel appreciated, it’s also a practical gift that will support them during their working day.
Do you use Slack? If so, you can wow your employees with custom emojis! This really is a simple idea, but one that can let you get super creative. You can literally upload your own images, and then select them from the emoji menu! Maybe you’ll upload a mugshot of each employee, and surprise them with it during a conversation one day?
Invite family to company events
Have you ever run a social event for your team, only to be disappointed when only 50% of them show up? One of the biggest reasons people tend to miss company events is because they have their own family commitments at home. But this doesn’t need to be an obstacle – what’s stopping you from letting employees bring their partners and children along to company events? It’s a great way to reward employees who may have a hard time socialising after hours, and it reminds your employees that their personal lives are important, and that achieving a good work-life balance is something your organization values.
Cover a major expense
Some of the things that get employees down the most, are the big and unexpected expenses that throw them off track for weeks, sometimes even months, at a time. So why not introduce a policy where you will cover a one-off expense for each employee? For example, an emergency car repair, or a new appliance. You could even include optional elements, such as a new kitchen or a personal phone upgrade.
Physical recreational activity is not only good for your body, but it’s great for your mind – so why wouldn’t you want to give your employees even more ways to get active with the things they love the most? Subsidising recreational costs can be a really nice way of reminding your employees how much you care for them – whilst helping them get fitter, healthier, and achieve a better work-life balance. Why not gift them a park pass, a gym membership, or access to a local climbing club? Whatever they love, help remove the financial barriers that might stop them taking part.
We live in a busy world full of noise, chaos and a constant battle for attention. Luckily, there’s a service out there designed to help people find a positive, healthy headspace – and fittingly, it’s called Headspace. Buying employees a Headspace subscription is a unique and relatively affordable way to reward their hard work. And they’ll have instant access to their very own headspace, from guided meditation and sleep support, to articles and mindfulness materials.
If your workplace is based in a particularly difficult place to reach, then you might want to consider rewarding your employees with subsidised commuting costs. This could be as simple as an extra chunk of cash in their pay package to pay towards their travel expenses – and it may be more appreciated than you realize. Psychology Today says that the daily commute has significant psychological and social costs to the employee. So why add the sheer expense to the list of anxieties it causes?
Taxi credits for abnormal shifts
If your business operates at unusual hours, or if you’re asking employees to do extra shifts than they’re used to, then you can do more to support their commute. In fact, many employers actually provide taxi credits for abnormal shifts – with the idea being that they’re asking them to do something abnormal or tricky, so travel should be a complication they simply don’t need to handle. Companies like Uber will let you set up a corporate taxi account that employees can simply charge to your organization.
Tickets to “that thing they love”
We all have our passions in our private life. Maybe it’s sport, maybe it’s music, maybe it’s theatre… maybe it’s a bit of everything! But these passions are not always easy to afford – especially when it comes to big-name performers like Beyonce, or major-league sports games like the NHL. So why not find out what “that thing they really love” is, and surprise them with a front-row seat?
Customized phone cases
Buying employees phone cases is a nice gesture in and of itself. After all, you’re helping them to protect their most prized possession – or possibly even safeguarding expensive company property! But why not go one step further and order customised phone cases, complete with pictures of their family, their friends, their pets, or whatever else they might hold near and dear.
Why not make employees feel like VIPs for a week, and have them picked up and dropped off by a member of your executive team? This simple act of service helps to show your employees that they’re valued just as much as the highest people in your organization – and depending on your C-Suite’s preferred style of automobile, they may just get the added benefit of a ride in a flashy modern car.
Have you ever stopped to calculate the sheer cost of keeping your car well-maintained for one full year? Either you absorb the difficult costs of keeping it in good shape, or you risk it blowing a gasket on your way to an important meeting. Unfortunately, many people do choose to run that risk, because they simply struggle to afford the maintenance. But what we’ve seen some companies do is offer to perform – or pay for – basic maintenance actions on employee vehicles throughout the year. For example, oil changes, tyre changes, and even car washes. This is especially helpful if you hire people who spend a lot of their job travelling, such as salespeople. And not only does it take a bunch of stress of their plate, but it makes sure they’re more likely going to arrive at the place they need to be!
Hire a dog sitter (or a dog walker)
We mentioned allowing dogs in the office earlier, because many employees find it a challenge to look after their pet pooches – especially the ones who got used to having their pet parent with them 24/7 during lockdown! But if this isn’t practical, then why not hire the services of a local doggy daycare centre, or even an independent dog walker, who can make sure your employees’ pets are given the attention they need during the day?
Premium car rental for the week
Sending an employee out on the road for a week? Or maybe you’re just feeling generous… either way, providing a premium rental vehicle is a great way to help your employees feel – and look – like a million dollars. You don’t need to go all-out with a Lamborghini, but you can certainly offer employees a temporary upgrade to whatever they’re driving right now – they’re definitely going to appreciate it.
Perhaps you remember calling “dibs” as a wayward youth – a way to claim something as your own, particularly a coveted object, or maybe even just the front seat in the family car. Originating from an old children’s game “dibstones”, calling dibs has ancient roots and remains popular to this day – and you can apply it as a reward for your employees! How? Simply give the rewardee the privilege of calling “dibs” for the day – whether they’re after the most comfortable chair, the easiest shifts, or even the least nasty item on the cleaning rota… it’s a prize worth winning.
Time is money. And according to many experts, the best way to reward employees is by giving them more time off. Plus, ensuring employees take time to rest and recuperate is an important part of boosting their health and wellbeing, not to mention their productivity. So whether it’s an extra day off on their birthday, or stripping everybody down to the extreme “4 day work week”, time off is a reward that almost everybody will enjoy. Except maybe the workaholics…
Time off coupons!
Here’s a great variation on the time off theme. Why not print out a stack of time off coupons, and let employees earn them for completing certain tasks or achieving certain goals? You could say that each coupon is worth 15 minutes, and then let employees save them up! Maybe they want to take an extra-long lunch break… or maybe they want to wait until they have a full stack of coupons, so they can stay in bed all day!
Some employees find their work lives easy… but their home lives a little bit trickier. For example, Good Housekeeping says that we are spending less time than ever on keeping our houses clean. And there may be a whole plethora of reasons for this. Whether it’s work getting busier, or life getting messier. And in our current age of remote working, not only are we making our homes more cluttered, but we’re spending longer periods of time exposed to it – which is something that can really affect the mental health of your workforce. So why not offer employees a special house cleaning service? There are plenty of independent cleaning services who are willing to offer special corporate rates when ordered in bulk – it could be a great way to help employees feel better about their home and their work lives.
Depending on where you’re located, you may find that many of your employees rely on laundromats to keep their clothes clean and fresh. This is especially true in dense cities like New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco, where almost half of households don’t even own a washing machine! Helping employees with their laundry requirements is a super simple, yet massively underrated way of rewarding their hard work, and helping make their lives more pleasant.
If you have a local gym nearby, you could reward employees with a free gym membership. They may even cut you a special deal if you sign enough people up! Not only can gym membership improve morale, but it can also help to reduce the number of sick days your employees take. It’s clear why it’s one of the top employee rewards going around!
Personal trainer voucher
Don’t live near a local gym, or maybe your workforce is totally remote? Why not help your employees stay in shape and feel good about themselves, by giving them a voucher to spend with a personal trainer of their choice! Personal trainers can also help employees see the value of goal setting, which can come in handy with their day job.
Luxury spa treatment
Want to go wild and give employees the pampering of a lifetime? Send them for luxury spa treatment, either at a local hotel, or at a specialist health and wellness resort. You can send people away on their own, in couples, with an open “plus one” invite token, or you can even find a spa day suitable for the whole group.
Sponsor them to run a marathon
When somebody really cares about a good cause – or when they just want to push their physical abilities to the limits – they may do something that seems crazy to most of us: They decide to run a marathon. But even though you may not be able to get out there and run the marathon with them – 26 miles is a very long distance – you can still reward their efforts by sponsoring them from the sidelines. They’ll appreciate your support, and you’ll be helping them improve their physical fitness while contributing to a great cause.
Executive parking space
As a matter of fact, giving employees preferential treatment in the office comes in many forms. And one way we’ve seen companies reward their employees in the past, is by offering out the best parking spaces in the parking lot – you know the ones… usually reserved for management, shortest walk to the entrance, widest bay markings.
Quirky stays at independent hotels
We’ve already pointed out that people love to travel, while also going wild for the idea of supporting local businesses. So why not reward employees with quirky stays at independent hotels, such as locally-owned Airbnb properties? Whether it’s for work-related travel, or simply time away from the corporate grind, this is a great way to discover exciting travel experiences that have a totally different flavour to the bland same-same chains of standardised hotels.
Have you ever watched a person pick up a violin, a saxophone, or even a piano, and thought “how do they do that”!? Alright, maybe you’ve never seen somebody single-handedly pick up a piano. But you know what we’re getting at! Anyway, a great employee reward idea for your more creative employees is to sign them up to a local music school and help them pick up a new skill. Hey, if a few of them take you up on the offer, then you can even have them put on a performance at the end of the year. You might even save a few dollars on hiring a band for your Christmas party!
The Heirloom of Appreciation
You know how heirlooms get handed down through families, from generation to generation? Well, you can start a trend at your workplace, called “The Heirloom of Appreciation” – and it involves a prestigious and desirable item, such as a nice shiny trophy, which you pass on to an employee who you feel deserves praise. But here’s the thing, they don’t hold onto it forever – you let the heirloom make its way around the office naturally! Each person must pass the heirloom onto whoever they feel deserves the next phase of appreciation. You can let them pass the heirloom freely, or set a time limit – e.g. it changes hands every Friday at 12:00.
Paid volunteer day
Most people love to get actively involved helping their favorite charity. So why not support their enthusiasm, while supporting a bunch of non-profit organizations, by giving each employee their own fully-paid volunteer day? You can let them choose their own charity, or pick one for everybody to support together – however you do it, employees will love being paid their regular wage while doing a little bit of good in the world.
VIP for the day
Why not reward employees by letting them earn the chance to become “VIP for the day”? You can make this anything you want, from letting them skip to the front of the line at lunchtime, to giving them exclusive use of the best office in the building. Whatever it takes to feel like a VIP at your workplace, you should put it all on this one special ticket.
Give employees a fixed amount of spending money, set them a time limit… then let them go wild. You can do this in a large shopping mall, or choose a particular store. But generally speaking, the bigger the better – variety is the spice of life! This kind of employee reward is also a great candidate for linking rewards to performance, the subject of many academic studies. For example, the spending limit could directly link to a business outcome – 500 deals in a year equals $500 for the spending spree!
Desirable company merchandise
If you see branded merchandise as just another tick box of things you need to order, then think again – you can make your company swag not only cool, but desirable. Are you just slapping your logo onto a bunch of t-shirts and mugs? Or are you taking time to actually think about how each product is going to look and feel for the employees using it? If you get it right, branded merchandise can easily double up as a highly engaging employee reward – one that turns into its own word of mouth promotional mechanism, once employees get talking about it on social media.
Almost everybody in the world has a music playlist that they use for almost every area of their life. Driving, getting ripped at the gym, and even working! So why not enhance your employees’ vibe with a premium music subscription? Chances are, your employees are sick to death of the ads that constantly interrupt their free Spotify subscription – so why not reward them with a premium unlimited music membership? Spotify, YouTube, Amazon and Apple all have a gigantic premium music database that should cater to even the pickiest of employees.
Throw a pool party
Why not treat your employees to a wild pool party? If the weather is good, and if you have the space for it, bring it to the office – that way, you can go crazy with the music, the beers and the snacks. But otherwise, there are loads of places where you can simply rent existing pools by the hour – you can browse the options via services such as Swimply.
Act of service auction
An “act of service” auction is a super interesting (albeit not very common) activity that can help you reward your employees while building tons of team spirit. Simply award employees with “fake money” that they can earn for achieving certain goals or milestones, and then host an act of service auction at the end of the month – where senior members of your business will offer to provide small favors to the highest bidder, such as mowing their lawn, washing their car, or even taking them out to lunch! This kind of activity is popular in many church and community groups, but can easily be applied to the workplace.
Monthly book subscription
It’s a pretty safe bet that many of your employees will be keen book worms – whether they’re open about that fact or not. And that’s why one great employee reward idea is to give them a monthly book subscription of some sort. You can choose a service like Book of the Month, which physically delivers an exciting new read to the person’s house every month, or you can provide a subscription to an audiobook service such as Amazon’s “Audible”, which gives subscribers access to one free book every month, professionally narrated by talented voice actors or celebrities.
Pay into a team “fun” budget
Make regular contributions into a pot of money that is only designated for having fun – and let your team decide how, and when, to spend it! Forbes reports that people are happier when they have more autonomy, so your only role in this designated “fun” budget is to pay into it. Maybe your employees want to spend it every week on team drinks – or maybe they want to save it up for a full year and take a trip to an exotic island.
Open a pick and mix stand
Everybody loves candy. So why not open your own pick and mix stand at work? Assuming you can trust your employees to be sensible, you should simply make this freely available, complete with scoops, gloves and colourful paper bags.
Fresh fruit daily
The Association of UK Dieticians recommends consuming five portions of fruit or vegetables every day. Yet very few of us actually achieve this figure! Despite fruit being a delicious treat, many people either cannot afford, or cannot be bothered to frequently buy it fresh. So why not treat your employees with readily-accessible free fruit and vegetable snacks every day? They’ll enjoy a tasty treat every day, and you’ll benefit from healthier employees who have more energy to tackle the day.
If you really want to let your team have at each other in a competitive and seemingly extreme environment, then a giant team paintball war might be just the tonic you need. What better way to reward your employees for their hard work, while building a bit of comradery and friendly competition in the process? Paintballing is a popular and fun team-building exercise. And although it can be painful and leave you battered and bruised, the extreme-sounding nature of paintballing is actually far safer than you might think. In fact, according to one researcher, the risk of injury from paintballing is far lower than sports including football, ice hockey and baseball! So if you’re looking to reward employees with the feeling of life-or-death thrill in a friendly but competitive environment, then paintballing might be what you’re looking for.
Local restaurant experience
There’s a reason we keep advocating “local” – and it’s because lots of people care about supporting local enterprise! And yes, this is supported by psychological evidence. So instead of treating employees to a standard meal at a standard brand-name restaurant chain, why not reward them with a real local restaurant experience? If you speak to the proprietor in advance, they may be able to add a little extra flavour to the event.
Professional cooking class
For a fun and delicious experience with your team, why not hire the services of a professional chef to show you how to prepare a truly grand meal? Perhaps you’ll learn the secrets of a true “pizzaiolo” – or maybe just the basics of bread baking. If you have a sizeable kitchen at your office space, you could bring the chef in-house – otherwise, why not take your team on an exciting day out?
If wine isn’t really their thing, then an excellent alternative employee reward idea could be a guided brewery tour! If you select a local brewery then you’ll not only be treating your employees with a special experience, but you’ll be supporting a local business, too.
While we’re on the subject of teaching cool new skills, one employee reward idea we’ve seen and loved, is teaching employees how to craft their own pottery. It might sound a little bit “out there”, but as far as messy, fun and unique experiences go, it ranks highly on all three. Just be careful you don’t play “Unchained Melody” as the ambient music…
Treasure hunts should not be exclusively enjoyed by kids. Adults can enjoy them, too! So why not throw a huge treasure hunt for all your hard workers, by hiding a ton of treats around the workplace, and then telling them to go find the prizes? There are tons of variations. Simply hide small prizes and let employees keep their eyes peeled throughout the day. Or hide a few larger prizes, and layout a complicated clue system! Get creative. Of course, one popular variation on the standard treasure hunt, is a scavenger hunt – a game which, in itself, has over 50 different variations to explore!
Membership to museums
There’s a stack of research out there about how art, the humanities, and cultural experiences can impact a person’s health and wellbeing. But the most important thing here, is that art and culture is something many employees love! So why not reward them with museum memberships? You can probably get a really good deal on a group membership if you enquire about corporate packages – and you’ll be enabling employees to embark on experiences that enrich their knowledge and understanding of the world. That can only be a good thing, right!?
Let employees help design your company swag
Remember what we said about the evidence for giving employees a sense of ownership? Getting them involved in design decisions for your branded merchandise is a great way to reward them and boost engagement levels at the same time. Whether it’s deciding where to place the logo on the next branded sweater, or helping to choose photos for the company calendar, getting employees wearing their creative caps is a great (and low cost) way to reward them.
Start a bike share scheme
A bike share scheme is a great reward for employees who are able – and willing – to cycle to work. Either you can buy a fleet of bikes that you loan out to employees as and when is needed, or you can subscribe to a ready-made bike share scheme – of which there are plenty to pick from! Whatever you can do to encourage employees to cycle to work is great. Not only will employees improve their own health and wellbeing, but you’ll be reducing the cost of their daily commute, while also helping to improve the air we breathe.
Healthline says there are 16 distinct benefits to Yoga. For example, there are the obvious – it increases your flexibility, reduces stress, and improves your mental health. But did you know that Yoga can also improve things like sleep quality, brain function, and even self-esteem? Putting on a free Yoga class for employees is a great way to reward them in 16 different ways. And many Yoga instructors are happy to come to your place of work, and teach classes for all different abilities and ages. So it’s an inclusive reward that everybody can be a part of!
If you have a strict uniform policy, then a nice employee reward idea would be to consider relaxing this on certain days. Or, even better, scrap the uniform altogether! While it’s not possible for all workplaces to get rid of the uniform policy – especially those such as medical, or construction, where the uniform is a functional part of the person’s role – there are many workplaces who continue to force employees to dress “formal” without any real scientific reason for doing so. Rowan University suggests that casual dress codes actually boost morale and motivation!
And if you really want to inject a bit of fun into the workplace? Reward your employees by hosting an all-out dress-up day, instead! It could be in honour of a charitable foundation, a special event, a public holiday, or just for fun! And as long as it doesn’t get in the way of performing regular duties, you should let your employees go wild… within reason.
Everybody likes cookies. Seriously, we challenge you to think about one person you know who doesn’t – we bet you can’t! And besides, as long as you eat sugary treats in moderation, snacks like cookies have been proven to temporarily boost serotonin levels and even reduce the symptoms of depression! So what are you waiting for? Start rewarding your employees with cookies!
Select art for the office space
One of the best ways to reward your employees is to let them take part in designing and styling the office space. So instead of decorating your corporate environment with rigid colour codes and boring artwork, why not let your employees decide what art to display in the workplace? From street-style murals to optical illusions, employees will quickly bring your place to life – and be thankful for the opportunity. Why not browse these awesome office art ideas to see what creative brainwaves your employees might come up with?
Host an office tournament
Some of the best employee reward ideas are the ones that introduce a little bit of lively fun and, dare we say it, competition into the workplace. While the jury might still be out on whether or not serious competition between colleagues is a good thing, there’s no disputing the fact that a bit of light, structured competition can boost comradery and togetherness. So why not host an office tournament? Pick an activity everybody is likely to enjoy… Chess. Ping pong. Whatever the game, whatever the sport! Can’t decide? Run several tournaments, and let employees pick which ones they want to subscribe to!
Open an office library
Actual bricks-and-mortar libraries may be a dying breed, but your employees’ love of books is not. So why not open your own office library? Buy a selection of books to kick things off, and then every time an employee expresses an interest in a book they’d like to read, buy it for them and add it to the office library – that way, they can read it for free, and so can anybody else! This kind of employee reward is a great way to encourage creativity, mental agility, and personal or professional development. It’s a win-win.
Dogs at the office
Unless you’ve ever owned a dog, you probably won’t realize quite how difficult it is to take care of them while you’re working full-time from an office. This problem has become significantly worse since the COVID-19 lockdowns, which saw many pet owners staying home with their animals 24/7 – only to “abandon” them, as far as the dogs could tell, once the office re-opened. Dog owners don’t want to leave their animals behind for extended periods of time. But if you make your office a dog-friendly environment, they don’t have to! Many companies have done this successfully, with perhaps the most famous example being the pet food company Chewy.
Splash out on premium office software
If you’re still forcing your employees to use Google Docs because it’s free, then why not bite the bullet and splash out on the full Microsoft Office Suite? Alright, there’s an argument to be made that Google Docs is actually better, in many ways, than Microsoft Word – but that’s not the point here. The point is that if you’re penny-pinching on the systems and tools you’re letting employees work with, is it really going to reward their efforts and make them feel valued? Find out what the premium software is that will help your employees do their jobs better, and then provide it for them. They’ll thank you for it – and their output will most likely improve.
Secret Santa – even when it isn’t Christmas
You already know how to play Secret Santa, right? Each employee draws a name from a hat, and secretly buys a gift for that person. Everybody works to the same approximate value, and employees tend to have loads of fun trying to figure out who their “Secret Santa” is. But why limit this fun game of giving to the festive season? We’ve seen some employers who sponsor this type of activity several times a year – and with great success.
Name a meeting room
Why give your meeting rooms boring numbers instead of names? A sense of ownership gives your employees increased motivation – what better way to give employees a sense of ownership than by letting them name your meeting rooms? This idea rewards employee creativity as well as makes meetings more fun. Just don’t be surprised when you get a bunch of silly name ideas landing in the suggestion box!
Run a board games evening
The benefits of board games are vast. Not only can they increase brain function, but they can teach important lessons like patience and goal setting. But the biggest benefit of board games? They’re fun! So why not reward your employees by getting everybody together in a room and hosting a board games evening! You could encourage people to bring their own, or supply a selection to choose from. Or, if you’re only a small group, and you’re not all board game enthusiasts, we recommend choosing a game that’s easy to learn, but has plenty of depth. Not sure which game fits this category? Look for something that scores around a 2 or a 3 on the Board Game Geek Weight Scale.
Throw a puppy party
No really, it’s a thing. You can hire a bunch of puppies to show up at your workplace and have your employees melting within minutes! There’s no better way to inject instant happiness into an environment, than by filling it with cute, adorable puppies. Companies like Puppy Party have a stock of playful pups on hand to delight and entertain your staff whenever you need it the most!
Hire a petting zoo
Want even more variety than just baby dogs? Hire a full petting zoo! From mice and chinchillas to cockroaches and raccoons, there are plenty of these mobile critter caravans willing to rock up to your workplace and let your employees get hands-on with their creatures. The benefits of small animals on health and wellbeing can improve mindfulness, as well as have a calming influence on people with mental disabilities including autism and ADHD.
Track race day
Do you hire anybody who has that “need for speed”? Then give them what they want – a real experience in a real race car on a private closed circuit! Companies like the Sports Car Club of America or Track Days have a huge range of cars, tracks and experiences to get involved with – and it’s an employee reward idea that will not be forgotten in a hurry.
You’ve seen flash mobs in action before, right? Huge groups of people come together to perform a pre-coordinated routine, such as a grand marriage proposal or a street dance party. But what’s stopping you from rewarding your biggest superstar with a “flash mob entrance” when they get to work? The way we’ve seen this work best, is to assign somebody the role of “spotter”. Their job is to watch for the nominated rewardee to walk through the door – and when they do? The spotter stands up, and starts a loud, slow clap. In short intervals, each other person in the room should also stand and join in, until what started as a solitary slow clap because a huge round of applause with a standing ovation. Warning: Not recommended as a way to reward employees who don’t like attention!
Wall of fame
Why have an employee of the month poster that you replace every few weeks, when you can let each momentous achievement live forever in your very own hall of fame? Employees love the prestige of seeing their name – or even their portrait – hanging on the wall. And when you add them to a hall of fame, they have every incentive to earn a place more than once, and let their legacy grow!
Install a bike station
Maybe your employees already have their own bikes that they’re willing to use to cycle to work. If that’s the case, then great! But is there more you could be doing to help make their journey more comfortable? A lot of people actually avoid using their bike to get to work, simply because the conditions at the office are not really fit for purpose – but you’d be surprised at how little you need to provide to make your workplace a bike-friendly one! You simply need a dedicated parking space where the bikes will be kept safe. In that space, you should have a couple of bicycle pumps for treating deflated tires, a bunch of Allen wrenches and screwdrivers for making simple adjustments, and if possible, an on-site shower. Cycling to work is no easy business, and most people don’t actually want to start their day drenched in sweat!
Order a catered lunch
A lot of planning goes into the lunch routine, doesn’t it? You don’t always know whether to take a pack-up, buy something from the cafeteria, or visit the local shops… and each has a different impact in terms of effort, cost, and even social dynamics. So why not remove the decision by ordering a catered lunch to be delivered each day, just before the lunch bell rings? Not only is eating lunch together fun, but psychological research tells us that eating together has a profound impact on our health and wellbeing.
Bring a food truck to the parking lot
It’s not always easy to provide lunch options to employees. But if you don’t have a bunch of local sandwich shops in your area, then there are plenty of small food truck businesses who are likely very willing to drive to your place or work, and park up – especially if it means they’ll get a load of custom from your hungry workforce. From hot dog stands to wood-fired pizzas, there’s a load of different food truck options. Why not have a different theme every day, week or month?
Host an open house
Do you ever remember those days at school, where all the kids would put their favorite work on display, and parents would come and admire all the finger paintings? Well, we’re not suggesting you do exactly that, but actually, something similar can be a really effective employee reward tool in your arsenal. Call it an open house, a friends and family day, or whatever you like… the goal here is to open the office up for your employees to invite their friends and family over. Put some food and drink on, maybe arrange a few structured activities, and let employees decorate their workstations with their projects, or the stuff they’re most proud of. It’s a great way to help employees invite their family – especially their kids – to come and find out what they get up to at work. And it can instil a sense of pride that lasts a long time.
Gift of art for the home office
If you have remote workers – or even if you don’t – then why don’t you give artwork for employees to decorate their home with? You could buy a selection of art and dish it out however you see fit, or even assign each person with an “art budget” and let them go wild. Of course, don’t be too surprised if your employees go a little wilder with their home art selections than you expect!
Run a board games event online
If you don’t have a space to play board games in an actual physical room, or if your employees are scattered across the far corners of the universe, then hosting an online board games event can be just as fun. Get everybody to jump into a voice or a video chat on Teams or Zoom, and then create a game table over on Board Game Arena – you’ll find hundreds of digitised classic board games that are free to play!
Monthly treat by mail
Books and music are not the only things you can treat your employees with via monthly subscription. In fact, you’re limited only by your creativity! From beer to beauty products, almost anything you can imagine can be ordered as a monthly bundle of happiness to your doorstep. If you’re in the UK, why not check out this list of monthly mail order subscription boxes that might make terrific treats for your employees? Or, here’s an equally extensive list of subscription ideas for anybody based in the United States.
Work from unique locations
Why stay in the office – or the home office – five days a week? One awesome way to reward employees and support local businesses at the same time, is to treat employees to occasional “work away from the office” days. These exciting one-off work adventures can take place anywhere – from coffee lounges and hotels, to rock climbing gyms or cinemas! All you need to find is a place with a strong wi-fi connection, and a place for employees to sit and set up their stations, and you’re good to go! In 2018, Entrepreneur published an article explaining exactly how a “work from anywhere” culture can benefit your business.
Fly in workers from remote places
The benefits of being together, face to face, are difficult to explain. Yarnfield Park tried to explain it back in 2020, and countless academics have attempted to articulate and measure the benefits… but it remains a bit of an enigma. What is not an enigma, however, is how powerful bonds can become between colleagues when they spend good quality time together, face to face. And that’s why one of the best ways you can reward employees who work not only remotely, but in different countries – is by frequently flying everybody in to one location, and letting them spend real time together. Maybe you want to rotate the locations – everybody spends a week in Romania one quarter, and then a week in Canada the next? It’s an exciting travel opportunity for your staff, and the results for your business might be an unexpected benefit.
Hire your very own Zoom bomber
You’ve probably heard the stories of the malicious Zoom trolls who invade serious meetings and cause trouble. But if you take the nastiness away, an “uninvited” guest can actually bring a lot of fun to a boring old Zoom meeting. From comedians to llamas, corporations have rewarded employees with appearances from a cast of hilarious Zoom guests – why not give it a try yourself? Companies like the Nowhere Comedy Club will let you hire comedians for your very own Zoom meetings.
Name a Zoom room
So what if you don’t have an office? You can still give creative names to your regular Zoom rooms. From the “Fridaily Meeting Room” for that meeting that takes place at 4pm every Friday, to “Galactus”, the place where there are no stupid questions. You are only limited by your own creativity – so let your employees get to work naming the various Zoom rooms you use.
Alright, we’ll admit it, this idea is pretty extreme. And it’s definitely not for everyone. But if you can stomach the cost – and for those who are feeling up for it – why not send employees on a “RemoteYear”, an incredible experience where they can travel the world and take their work with them! The reason this is such a great way to reward employees, is because it lets them tick off the biggest item on their bucket list, without requiring them to quit their job. You see, many people plan to take a gap year where they save up their money and then travel the world… but in reality? Most of them don’t actually manage to leave the country. And for those who do, filling the space they leave behind can be a challenge for their former employer. Of course, if it sounds too much to send employees to work remotely from weird and wild locations for a full year, it’s worth noting that a RemoteYear does not necessarily last a year – the company offers rapid breaks that last as little as a week. But you really can send your employees on exciting journeys that last between 1 and 12 months, where they take their work with them as they travel the world. And why shouldn’t you?
An honorable mention for all the ideas we didn’t include
You might be surprised to learn that we actually struggled to decide which ideas to drop from this list – there are far more than 100 great employee reward ideas out there. But as we mentioned, we have tried hard to include the 100 best employee reward ideas – i.e. the ones with some sort of evidence to back them up. And more specifically, we wanted to include the ideas that are most relevant!
Read more: 65 employee recognition ideas
Of course, if you have managed to read this list from start to finish, and you’re wondering why maybe we didn’t include something that’s worked well for you… then it’s entirely possible that we missed it by mistake. So don’t be afraid to drop us a line with your great ideas – after all, they might be included in our next edition.
We hope you’ve enjoyed this list. Why not bookmark this page? That way, whenever you need a shot of inspiration, we’ll have always got your back!